CINCINNATI — Browns running back Peyton Hillis returned to action Sunday after missing five games with an injured left hamstring. He rushed for a team-high 65 yards on 19 carries in Cleveland’s 23-20 loss to the Bengals.
“I was satisfied, I guess, with some of my performance today,” Hillis said. “Coming back on one day of practice after being out a few weeks, it was quite surprising, but I didn’t do as bad as I thought.”
The “Madden NFL 12” coverboy had been sidelined since hurting his leg on Oct. 16 in Oakland, but came off the bench on the second play of the game after Chris Ogbonnaya was given a ceremonial start.
Hillis seldom left the field after that, logging the majority of the Browns’ 30 rushing attempts. He also made two catches for minus-4 yards and mishandled a handoff from Colt McCoy that tight end Alex Smith pounced on.
“The first couple times, you’re kind of hesitant on things, but then you start getting into the rhythm and things started going well there,” Hillis said. “I expect big things after this. I expect to progress, and I’m looking forward to next week.”
Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur said he didn’t plan on giving Hillis such a heavy workload, but was forced to when Montario Hardesty was a last-minute scratch when his right calf tightened up while stretching. The second-year pro dressed, but only would have played in an emergency.
“I didn’t pull anything, it just wasn’t ready to go out there and go 100 percent,” said Hardesty, who last appeared in a game on Oct. 30 in San Francisco. “It’s definitely frustrating, but I wouldn’t say it was a setback.”
Largely thanks to Hillis’ return, the Browns outrushed the Bengals 134-132. Mainly because of his inactivity, Cleveland has been outgained on the ground by 460 yards this season.
“I thought Peyton had some production and helped us move the football,” Shurmur said. “Overall, he helped our cause. He played hard front to back.”
- Phil Dawson made a 54-yard field goal in the third quarter, giving him seven 50-plus yarders this year. The NFL record is eight, shared by Atlanta’s Morten Andersen (1995) and Detroit’s Jason Hanson (2008).
- Cleveland scored its initial first-quarter touchdown of the season on a 24-yard pass from Colt McCoy to Jordan Norwood. It also was Norwood’s first NFL touchdown.
- Rookie wide receiver Greg Little scored his first pro TD on a 3-yard strike from McCoy, but dropped four passes.
- Defensive end Jabaal Sheard and linebacker Titus Brown notched sacks on Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.
- A holding penalty against rookie safety Eric Hagg wiped out an interception by Mike Adams.
- The Browns lost the coin toss, remarkably making them 0-11 on the season.
- The Browns’ inactives were safety T.J. Ward (sprained right foot), fullback Owen Marecic (concussion), defensive end Jayme Mitchell (ankle), linebacker Quinton Spears (hamstring), tackle Oniel Cousins, center Steve Vallos, and quarterback Thaddeus Lewis. Tight end Alex Smith filled in for Marecic, while defensive end Kiante Tripp made his NFL debut. Linebacker Scott Fujita broke his right hand in two places during the second half, but said he couldn’t pinpoint the exact play. He was placed in a finger-to-elbow soft cast and will undergo additional medical tests. “I don’t think (it’s a season-ending injury), but we’ll find out more tomorrow,” Fujita said. McCoy (right elbow), cornerback Dmitri Patterson (sprained left ankle), linebacker Kaluka Maiava (knee), and defensive end Emmanuel Stephens (strained pectoral) were also banged up during the contest.
- The Bengals’ inactives were defensive end Carlos Dunlap (hamstring), tight end Donald Lee (foot), linebacker Dontay Moch (personal reasons), wide receiver Ryan Whalen, safety Robert Sands, guard Clint Boling, and tackle Anthony Collins.
- Nose tackle Pat Sims (left ankle) exited with a potentially serious injury.
- The attendance at Paul Brown Stadium was 48,260, marking Cincinnati’s fourth non-sellout (and local television blackout) in five 2011 home games. The stadium’s capacity is 65,515. Downtown scalpers were selling tickets for well below face value, while several nearby parking lots dropped their rates to $10.
- The Bengals continue to play Kool & The Gang’s “Jungle Boogie” after every home touchdown, but have added a sophomoric pep song to their scoreboard presentation.
- Heavy rain fell throughout the morning, but diminished to brief showers during the game. The kickoff conditions were 57 degrees with uncomfortable 98 percent humidity.
Quote of the day
“As big and tough as I am, it crippled me. Your knees are weak, you’re shaking. It’s unbelievable. I haven’t slept since.” — Browns tackle Tony Pashos on the Friday birth of his daughter, who weighed in at 7 pounds, 6 ounces and measured 19 1⁄2 inches.
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.